Language Research Centre’s (LRC) Applied Linguistics Seminar Series: A Summary by Chloe Williams (Autumn 2022)

Chloe Williams is a third year student studying BA English & Media studies. These views and readings are her own.

Over the first semester of the 2022/2023 academic year, the LRC hosted another Applied Linguistics seminar series over Zoom. Intertwined every other week with AppLing Wednesday, the seminar series included a wide range of speakers from different research backgrounds. The three guest speakers were Dr Nur Yigitoglu, Dr Angela de Britos and Dr Sam Barclay. After attending all three talks, I will briefly summarise each talk for anyone who missed out.

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Dr Nur Yigitoglu, Boğaziçi University – Metadiscourse in teaching L2 writing

Nur’s talk was broken down into four helpful parts: An introduction to the area of research, sample study one, sample study two, and a conclusion. She begun by introducing her area of interest and went on to define multiple key words and concepts, such as Hyland’s model of metadiscourse. The focus of this talk was Nur’s past studies in which she broke down her theoretical frameworks, her motivations for each study, her methodologies, her data, and her findings and research implications.

In her first sample study, she investigated academic writing patterns of 50 learners in an English-medium undergraduate education program in Turkey. Nur focused specifically on their development of academic writing skills through journal writing. Each learner would ‘write about writing’, where they would discuss what they learnt after each academic writing class bi-weekly. Nur

found two reoccurring features in the learner’s writing: Reflexive I, and reflexive you. Nur concluded that the importance of incorporation journals as a reflexive genre in L2 language education courses should become a part of a teacher’s professional practice and curriculum.

In the second sample study, Nur looked at the role of teacher feedback in relation to the development of second language acquisition. She identified this as a scarce area of research, particularly with electronic human feedback in L2 writing. Nur selected a condensed section of her results and found that of the majority of the 361 instances of feedback analysed, questions were the most preferred form of feedback in electronic written feedback.

Throughout this talk, it was clear that Nur was passionate about her own research as well as contributing to the overall area of language development and language teaching. She made sure to cater to any attendee who may not have been as familiar with the research area or particular key words and concepts. Her talk was clearly structured and thorough. If you’d like access to any of her studies, feel free to contact her, she is more than happy to share her work! Email:  

Key words: L2, metadiscourse, academic writing patterns, language development, teacher feedback, electronic feedback, language teaching.

Dr Angela de Britos, University of Strathclyde – How digital technologies support the development of linguistics and cultural identities of Spanish-speaking bilingual families in Scotland

At the beginning of this talk, Angela explained that she has lived in both Scotland and Spain, specifically Madrid, and worked as a primary school teacher. She herself speaks Spanish fluently. Angela highlighted that in Scotland, 149 languages are spoken by pupils across the country in schools. From the 2006 census survey, it was found that the most common languages children speak throughout Scotland are Polish, Urdu, Arabic, and Punjabi. Surprisingly, Spanish took up more than half of all languages observed in Scotland. Angela identified a gap in research through her own experience working in education, in which children and families were not at the forefront of any studies of heritage language in Scotland.

In her own study, she took a personal qualitative approach so that she herself could hear the voices of her on participants. She noted that the west of Scotland is where the majority of Spanish and Latin Americans reside, so she focused her research there. 14 families were sampled in her study, and this number consisted of 10 originating from Latin America, and 4 originating from Spain. Angela conducted her research through family interviews in order to obtain richer conversation and to create a more relaxed and informal environment for each family. Throughout these interviews, she observed many instances of language code switching. Of the 7 key finding Angela presented from her study, the most interesting was the concept of artificial community, in which families would utilize technology to maintain their cultural identity while living away from their countries of origin. This would include video calling family who still live in their country of origin and communicating in Spanish or consuming Spanish content online through social media.

Angela’s talk and specifically her findings were fascinating and gave an in-depth look into communities often overlooked in language research. She was clearly very passionate about this subject, and clearly holds a lot of empathy and respect for her own participants, as well as the Spanish-speaking bilingual community of Scotland as a whole. Overall, this talk was refreshing and gave a much-needed insight into the more personal aspect of linguistic research.

Key words: Spanish, bilingual, Scotland, cultural identity, heritage language, qualitative research, digital technology, code switching, artificial community.

Dr Sam Barclay, Nottingham Trent University – What makes some second language lexical items harder to learn and easier to forget?

As a TESOL lecturer himself, Sam explained his interest in vocabulary acquisition as well as what the reasons behind lexical decay and learning burden were. Throughout his talk, Sam took us through his own research into these phenomena. To begin, he explained the concepts, defining learning burden in two ways: light and heavy. Learning burden, as Sam summarised, is the amount of effort it takes for a learner to acquire a word to their lexicon. Lexical decay occurs when a speaker’s proficiency or linguistic competence decreases beginning with the loss of vocabulary.

In both studies, Sam considered the relationship between learning burden and lexical decay in an attempt to find out whether or not words that are understood as harder to learn are forgotten easier.

From the results of both studies, Sam was able to conclude that presenting L2 vocabulary via the participant’s L1 led to less burden and decay. As well as this, he found that when language was presented bimodally (written and spoken), there was little to no impact on participant’s lexical decay. Another interesting conclusion was that some aspects of aptitude impacted learning burden, but not lexical decay. Sam highlights this finding as a possible avenue for further research. However, the overall conclusion was that the greater the language burden, the increase in likelihood of loss.

Sam’s research into learning burden and lexical decay is a fantastic contribution to the field of language acquisition and development and gives L1 and L2 teachers a greater understanding into their student’s language acquisition progression. By identifying suitable strategies to promote vocabulary growth, teachers are better equipped to prevent lexical decay. The importance of this research cannot be understated for anyone hoping to work in education, specifically in L2 teaching.

Key words: TESOL, vocabulary acquisition, language acquisition, lexical decay, learning burden, L1, L2.